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Strategic Meeting Management Programs – SMMP

 As the rush to implement meeting programs (SMMP) continues unabated within the corporate world I wanted to focus on one of the core program components… terms & conditions. Any organisation with significant spend on meetings and events will look to align their own set of terms & conditions with their preferred venue program. Those organisations who are particularly risk adverse may consider T&C’s more of a priority than preferential set rates and will focus on implementing these first.

The alternative to doing so is to simply not do so! You could save yourself some time and effort (therefore money) by allowing bookers to sign without guidance the venues terms & conditions each time. However, any perceived short term gain is offset by long term risk. The challenge for an organisation placing a significant volume of meetings and events is how you prevent your employees signing up to unfavourable T&C’s… and how you know what is favourable, and get visibility of what they are signing up to.

It is unlikely that your booking community are legally trained therefore asking them to judge the T&C’s favourability without the benchmark of written policy to cross-check against invites risk. Just thinking that it is highly unlikely to happen anyway could prove costly as the event that you happily prepaid without any refund clause, because it has always run for the last however many years, has just been dropped from the event calendar with immediate effect by the new CEO! With the increasing scrutiny on event ROI it could be deemed cheaper to pay a cancellation charge than incur the cost of running an event which isn’t even washing its own face. Either way it is a cost that could be avoided…

To give a sense of scale, and of the increasing focus on risk, report that 84% of the RFP’s sent through their web based booking system GRATIS in the last 12 months had T&C’s attached… that is over 375,000 booking requests!

All venues will have a contractual set of T&C’s that must be agreed to at the time of confirming a booking. What is also true is that they will all differ and will include some or all of the following;

  • Attrition
  • Cancellation
  • Payment
  • Liability
  • Indemnity
  • IP rights
  • Force Majeure
  • Termination
  • Statutory legislation
  • Governing law and jurisdiction

Getting the “right” terms for you

For the purpose of this post I am going to assume that the organisation has engaged a HBA or TMC to manage their SMMP. What you need to do before committing to paper, if creating a set of T&C’s from scratch, are;

  • Understand what are the “sacred cows” for your business that must be in each contract
  • Understand what are the “nice to haves” and where you would compromise on those
  • Understand any historical issues that have arisen and the impact on the business
  • Understand the venues you use and the meetings and events you run
  • Ask your agent for support in benchmarking what is reasonable to ask for

Creating a set of T&C’s for your organisation is only half the battle, gaining adoption is the greatest challenge. The biggest barrier to venues agreeing to a client set of T&C’s is when an organisation sets out to have the “best” terms & conditions in the market. Without taking the above steps first “best” can only ever be subjective, and they may look good on paper but if nobody agrees to the terms then you have achieved nothing.  

Some of the implications of not understanding fully your business and its activity in the meetings and events arena I have seen are;

  • T&C’s constantly being rejected by venues for a specific clause that nobody truly understands
  • T&C’s being passed back and forth endlessly because there were so many clauses in that venues might object to, and nobody understood if there was any room for compromise
  • T&C’s being rejected because of an unreasonably high level of attrition, despite delegate numbers historically never fluctuating to anywhere near the level requested
  • T&C’s being rejected because the payment terms were set at a level that was acceptable to most hotels, but the majority of events were going into unusual venues who operate differently
  • T&C’s being rejected because the cancellation clause was set at a level that was acceptable for small day meetings, but the majority of their meetings were large conferences


It is crucial to have T&C’s that protect from risk but if you set out with the mentality to create a set that are right for your business you will get the best… the best for you and for compliance. 



Implementing and measuring

The likelihood is there will be a two pronged approach to gaining adoption;

  1. Venues will be formally invited to accept the organisations T&C’s as part of the ‘deal’ to feature in their preferred venue program during the annual RFP exercise
  2. Those venues that sit outside of a preferred venue program will be asked to accept the organisations T&C’s by way of an addendum to contract

You need to make sure the T&C’s are visible throughout your organisation and that everybody understands the importance and what you are seeking to achieve from them. Like most things if people understand the objectives they are less likely to complain about having to work with them.

Gaining agreement from venues can be a timely process so it is critical that you measure the following;

  1. Adoption
    1. How many times were the terms accepted without challenge
    2. If there was a challenge what were the clauses challenged
  2. Benefits
    1. What cost avoidance did the T&C’s deliver for your business
    2. How much potential risk was mitigated

Finally… review regularly. Not only do your business needs change but the market also changes. We are entering a sellers’ market after a long period of a buyers’ market. That will bring its own challenges, many of which may not have been seen previously if you are relatively new to the industry…